Frequently Asked Questions about Other Sacraments
1. We do not regularly attend a Parish in the area, and we cannot find a Priest who will Baptize our child, or allow them to receive First Holy Communion. We want our child to receive the sacraments of the Church. What can we do?
There are several options that are open to you. Most Roman Catholic parishes will require that you have at least some connection to them before they allow you to baptize your child, or even permit them to receive First Holy communion. In many cases, the parish will require that the parents be married in the Church, or that they take part in lengthy sacramental preparation programs. If you are open to doing so, seek out a parish where you feel comfortable, meet with the priest and explain that you would like to join the parish and that you have plans to have your child baptized or make their First Holy Communion. If you still have parents or relatives living in this area who belong to a parish, ask them to speak to their priest about your request.
All Catholics who approach a Catholic priest for any sacrament, or help of any kind should be welcomed and listened to with kindness. If you do not feel that you are being welcomed or treated kindly by your local priest or parish, I assure you that I will treat you with kindness and acceptance – nonjudgmental.
2. We are not married, will you baptize our child or give them their First Holy Communion?
Your marital status in no way affects your child’s ability to receive the sacraments. I look forward to sharing these gifts of God’s love and mercy with your child. God is most generous in bestowing the gifts of His Grace on all who seek Him, as well as those who call out His Name. Your child will not be denied!
3. Do both of us have to be Catholic? Do we have to be practicing Catholics?
At least one of you should be a Catholic. You do not have to be a practicing Catholic, although it would be encouraged. Why? You are asking that your child be initiated into the People of God--the community of believers. The Church is a community, and your child will need your guidance and example to learn how to live their new faith and be a member of the People of God. None of us is perfect. Your child is not looking for perfection, but merely an example they can come to follow. You are the first and best teachers of your children in the ways of life and faith. Although my role as a Catholic Priest is one of leadership and service, through teaching, prayer and the sacraments; nothing can ever replace the impact you will have on your beloved child. Even if you are not Catholic, or a practicing Catholic, we can talk about baptizing your child and helping you to be the best examples of life and faith for them. Maybe this baptism will become a new beginning for you?
4. If our child receives baptism or First Holy Communion from you, will they receive the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church? Will your celebration be valid?
I am an ordained Roman Catholic priest. I left ministry in the institutional Church in 2000, but have been called back to ministry by CITI Ministries, a lay Catholic organization. Because of that call, I am a member of the Society of Christ’s Priesthood, and recognized as a Roman Catholic Priest in good standing with the International Council of Community Churches (ICCC). As a result, I am a legally designated “minister of religion” in every state in the nation, and therefore I am able to legally officiate at the celebration of the sacraments.
The International Council of Community Churches and all other Christian denominations will recognize the baptism and First Holy Communion as valid and licit (i.e., legal). Since I am no longer ministering as a cleric within the institutional and juridical Church of Rome, I lack jurisdiction from the Vatican to celebrate sacraments on its behalf. Your baptism or First Holy Communion will be celebrated in a ceremony in the Catholic tradition, according the rites of the Catholic Faith, officiated by a Catholic Priest. It will be recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as a valid reception of these sacraments, although they will consider such celebrations as illicit. If being able to receive all of your sacraments within the Roman Catholic Church--that is the institutional “Church of Rome”--is important to you, then it will be easier on you or your child to pursue reception of all of your sacraments within your local parish. If you receive these sacraments from me, even though they will be valid and efficacious, the local parish may challenge them on the grounds of being illicit (irregularly celebrated). You will receive a certificate of reception of these sacraments from me, and the record of your baptism or First Communion will be recorded at CITI Ministries.
5. We want to have our child baptized or receive their First Holy Communion in an outdoor ceremony, but our priest will only officiate if it takes place in a service inside the church building. Will you perform an outdoor ceremony?
Yes, I will be more than happy to baptize your child, or celebrate the Liturgy of First Holy Communion at a reception hall, home, or other appropriate setting, inside or outside. We can discuss the setting that you have in mind during our first meeting.
6. How long does the typical ceremony last?
A baptismal ceremony runs about 30 minutes, depending on how many children are involved, or how you wish to personalize it. The reception of First Holy Communion takes place within the context of Mass, and so it is approximately one hour. There is plenty of room for readings—Biblical—music. In addition, you may include people who are special to you in roles such as a reading, music, or giving a blessing or reflection during the ceremony.
7. What is your stipend to officiate at baptism or First Holy Communion of our child, and what services does this include?
Ordinarily I receive $250 for a baptism or the celebration of a First Holy Communion. This stipend or honorarium is inclusive of: pre-sacramental preparation, all preparations for your ceremony, officiating, and processing the sacramental certificate. These services may vary based on the needs and desires of the family, or person receiving these sacraments.
Some officiants provide a "cookie-cutter" ceremony. I spend a significant amount of time with you prior to the celebration of these sacraments to get to know you. We can then work together to craft a ceremony that reflects your unique family and faith experiences. This is not a “test” to see if you or your child will or will not receive these sacraments. Your faith and love have led you to this moment, and that is sufficient for me! We will celebrate these sacraments!
8. What does it mean to 'rent' you to officiate at the baptism or First Holy Communion?
Despite the name of the CITI Webpage (rentapriest.com), Roman Catholic priests are not for rent. The stipend is merely intended to compensate for the time that I spend away from my family, and to defray from the expenses I incur in planning, preparing and celebrating your baptism or First Holy Communion. Sacraments cannot be sold or bought. All of the sacraments, are free gifts of grace established by Christ for the salvation and holiness of those who receive them. Jesus alone paid the price through His Suffering, Death and Resurrection. Nothing can ever truly compensate for the cost of ministry, other than the blessings it bestows on the people I work with.
I want to make this very clear, this is not a fee for services rendered. This may sound like a fine point, but this is very important. Above all else, this is the ministry that Christ gave to me at my ordination, and so it is not, nor will it ever be a business.
9. What if this is more than I can afford?
Since this is a ministry, and we are discussing the celebration of a sacrament, no person or family should ever feel that they cannot call me simply because of the cost. If the offering listed above is beyond your means please let me know, we’ll work something out. I will never turn you away because you cannot afford the 'customary' offering.
What is most important to me is that you have God’s blessing at your celebration, and that you feel His love in your hearts and grow in holiness of life.
10. When do we pay you?
Unless we agree to another arrangement, please make a non-refundable deposit of $100 when you reserve your date on my calendar. This is important, since some people have, from time to time, disappeared after meeting with me once or twice and I have turned others away while reserving the date for them. The balance is due one month before your celebration.
11. What if I want to go to confession, can you absolve me of my sins, and will you maintain the “seal of confession”?
As a validly ordained Roman Catholic priest I can and will gladly absolve you of all of your sins when you make your confession and are truly sorry for what you have done. The act of absolution that I will impart is as efficacious as the one you would receive from any parish priest. As a priest, I am merely the Lord’s instrument through which He forgives your sins.
As for the “Seal of Confession,” or more simply, keeping the secrecy of the person’s identity and sins that they confess--it is true, like any other priest in a parish, I cannot reveal what you tell me in confession to anyone else, EVER! This secret is absolute!
12. Is there a stipend involved in going to confession?
Absolutely not! Church law and the guidelines for the Sacrament of Reconciliation completely forbid the practice of receiving any gift from a penitent. The same is true for someone receiving the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, and its closely associated practice popularly called “the Last Rites.” Since this sacrament is intimately related with the forgiveness of sins and healing, the Church has never permitted, nor have I ever accepted any compensation for celebrating these important sacraments and rites of mercy.
13. Will you go to a hospital or home to celebrate the Anointing of the Sick, or to provide “the Last Rites”?
I will gladly go to the hospital or a home to provide this sacrament and rite for those who are simply ill, or even dying. You do not have to be at risk of death to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. If you are about to undergo a medical/surgical procedure, experiencing prolonged pain, illness, or recovering from an injury, you can ask and receive this sacrament of healing.
I ask that you inform me as soon as you are aware of the illness and not wait till the last moments of life so that I can provide this spiritual comfort to your loved one as soon as possible, and while they are conscious. If you allow the hospital to contact me, keep in mind that they are very busy trying to save lives and comfort the dying with the best that medicine can provide. Ordinarily they will not place spiritual comfort as a priority on their “things to do” list. In my experience, hospitals often call when it is too late for me to do anything. What does this mean? Once a person has died, no sacraments can be provided for them. That is the teaching and the practice of the Catholic Faith, and something I hold to. Sacraments are not magic, but the celebration of the gifts of Grace for the living.
14. Where’s Christ in all of this?
Jesus began his public ministry by being baptized in the Jordan River at the hands of John the Baptist. Our Lord frequently ate and drank with anyone and everyone, especially those whom others considered to be outcasts – tax collectors, sinners, and lepers. Jesus often healed all who came before him. He forgave the sins of the Adulterous Woman. At the Last Supper he instituted the Eucharist, offering His own body and blood in the form of bread and wine to unite Himself to his disciples for all time. Jesus always reached out to those whom others rejected or ignored, to bring them the Good News that no one is beyond the love and the mercy of God. Of course, this placed Jesus at odds with the religious leadership of his day, and the institution that supported them. Jesus did not place value on the opinions of these religious critics, but sought out those whom God has called to His heavenly home.
Catholicism is larger than the institution that has evolved around it. Catholicism is more than its corporate structure. It's more than the bishops – though we ought to respect them. It is more than the Pope, though he has claim on our loving attention. It is more than the Vatican. Popes, bishops, and priests may be the ones with legal title to the buildings, but they are just people. They can be woefully mistaken, or even malfeasant, as just a glance at recent headlines reminds us.
We are the Church -- you and I – we are the People of God. The Church is the Spirit of Christ within the community of believers who support and nurture one another through prayer, the sacraments, and charitable words and deeds. We seek to promote the growth of all people in holiness of life. It is our journey together – and on that journey each one of us has the right to feel welcomed at the Lord’s Table, where we recognize Him in the breaking of bread. Each person has a right to receive God’s blessing in great moments of happiness and sadness –the birth of new life, in our own sickness and weakness, and at the hour of death. Everyone has a right to receive help on the journey from those called to be helpers and guides in the way of the Gospel. Isn't that what the priesthood is all about, being a wise and helpful guide on the journey of the soul to God?
When the hierarchy loses its way – as it has from time to time throughout history – it is incumbent on the rest of us to claim our rights and assume our responsibility as members of the Body of Christ. If you are alienated from the institutional Church, you need not be alienated from your Catholicism. The Church – though not its current leaders – welcomes you just as you are. It welcomes you in your second marriages, it welcomes you if you are gay, and it welcomes you if you are burdened down with some unspeakable guilt or shame. It welcomes you in His name, the one who has never ceased loving you – not even during the times when you felt farthest from Him.